“The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”
These words were spoken by then Minister of Health Aneurin Bevan in 1948, as his dream of creating a National Health Service became a reality. Bevan, a miner’s son who went on to become a cabinet minister, was not born into the trappings of privilege; he was motivated to serve the people he represented: a species that seems to be all but extinct in the political jungle of today.
Despite the ambitions of Bevan’s present day counterpart to dismantle a system of which Britain can be proud, the words of the miner’s son seem to be holding true, considering the widespread opposition to the implementation of the Health and Social Care Bill. The Bill is based on government proposals to reform the NHS, released in July 2010 as a document titled ‘Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS’, more commonly known as the White Paper.
The proposals, if implemented would allow for changes altering the NHS as we know it. Though the Tories, predominantly, have claimed that a radical shake up is needed to improve the NHS and make it more efficient in a time of austerity, the cat has long since been let out of the bag.
In addition to giving already busy GPs, who lack the necessary financial acumen, responsibility for 80% of the NHS budget, something that the vast majority of GPs are against, the Bill would also leave sections of the NHS up for grabs, allowing ‘any willing provider’ to bid for contracts. This means that the NHS would, as in the world of business, find itself having to compete against private companies and not for profit organisations (social enterprises) or anyone else eager to get their hand in the honey pot to bid for services that it currently operates. An example of how this plays out can be seen in the case where a local NHS Trust, previously responsible for providing healthcare to prisoners in several prisons across the North East of England, was passed over for the contract it previously had, in favour of Care UK, a private healthcare group, run by John Nash who donated a six figure sum to the Tory party pre-election.
Opening up the NHS to an onslaught of snatch and grab companies would cause money to flow out of the NHS in a method akin to death by a thousand paper cuts.
However, David Cameron and Andrew Lansley are having to fight on every front. The GPs, who supposedly Lansley claimed were on his side, have given the Bill a resounding ‘no’ vote.
Over 90% of surveyed members of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) want the Bill to be scrapped. President of the RCGP, Clare Gerada, has voiced these concerns stating ”It will turn the National Health Service into thousands of different health services, all competing for the same patients, the same knee, the same brain, the same heart.”
A defeat over this Bill may prove to be the tidal wave that grinds the Con-Dem anti-public sector ‘blitzkrieg’ to a halt. Whilst they have rightly been challenged on other matters- pensions, redundancies, reform of disability allowance, opposition to academies, and rising unemployment, the opposition to the implementation of the Health and Social Care Bill has become a rallying point for opponents of the Con-Dem cuts who have formed a formidable defence line. Let us hope that the Battle of the Bill becomes the ‘Stalingrad’ of the coalition government- a defeat that signals the beginning of the end, one that strikes the cabinet of millionaires with the possibility that ‘no, they are not invincible’, whilst emboldening all those opposing austerity measures, in any way shape or form, and showing that the march of austerity is not an inevitability.
Last week, Cameron was forced to come out fighting, stating that too much blood has been lost in the battle to reform the NHS. Do these sentiments of what can be likened to a man under siege sound familiar to anyone?
With Cameron, Lansley and their ever dwindling army of allies feeling the isolation biting as they find themselves ever more surrounded, let’s keep the pressure on: one final push to liberate the besieged NHS.
Dr Tomasz Pierscionek is proud to both work for and defend the NHS from attack
Categorised in: Editorial
This post was written by Tomasz Pierscionek